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O'Connor steps in for Ulster to give Anscombe winning debut

Ulster started off the new campaign with a well-deserved victory at Ravenhill last night.

Tries by wingers Michael Allen and Craig Gilroy -- with early replacement Niall O'Connor adding the rest with the boot -- gave a positive start for new coach Mark Anscombe. A solitary try by former Ulster winger Tommy Seymour was all Glasgow could manage, thanks to some crunching tackling behind the gain line by the Ulster defence.

A robust start by the Warriors found a response in Ulster's tackling -- the experienced John Afoa, in particular, showing his all-round capabilities. When they finally calmed Glasgow's early onslaught, Ulster got their drills working with some great rucking and clearing out, but they were hit with the loss of out-half Paddy Jackson after only 10 minutes with a leg injury. Replacement O'Connor's first task was to slot over a 40-metre penalty to edge the home side in front.

nerves

It was a stop-start introduction to the new season with nerves evident on both sides. Glasgow drew level in the 20th minute when Nick Williams was penalised for not rolling away at a ruck in front of his posts and Duncan Weir did his duty.

O'Connor, who had settled comfortably into his role on his debut return following a year with Connacht, missed a couple of penalties that would normally be within his compass.

A yellow card for Seymour for pulling down a great line-out drive by Ulster, had the home side's tails up in the run-up to half-time -- and they wasted no time in scoring the first try of the new season when after Williams, and then the industrious Lewis Stevenson made yards infield, the ball was switched for Jared Payne to float a superb long pass for Allen to glide in.

Ulster received a present at the start of the second half when Glasgow's out-half Weir tossed out a long speculative pass, but the alert Gilroy pounced and ran 60 metres unopposed under the posts for O'Connor to add the extras.

The fourth quarter started with replacement Tom Court coming on for his 100th appearance for Ulster, but Glasgow bounced right back into contention in the 68th minute when Ulster turned over possession and Ruaridh Jackson floated a long ball out right to put Seymour in at the corner to make it 15-10. Another penalty by O'Connor in the 80th minute put the game out of reach though.

Ulster -- J Payne; M Allen, C Farrell (D Cave 65), L Marshal, C Gilroy; P Jackson (N O'Connor 10), M Heaney (P Marshall, 60); C Black (T Court 61), R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller (capt), L Stevenson, R Diack, S Doyle, N Williams (M McComish 54).

Glasgow -- P Murchie; T Seymour, A Dunbar( P Horne 77), G Morrison, S Lamont; D Weir (R Jackson 60), H Pyrgos (C Cusiter 40); G Reid (R Grant 40), F Gillies (D Hall 62), M Cusack (M Low 52), T Ryder, A Kellock (capt) (J Eddie 31), R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson.

Ref -- M Mitrea (Italy).

Irish Independent